Ethiopian Fasting Calendar
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church follows a fasting calendar that includes seven mandatory and several other optional fasts throughout the year. These fasting periods are an important part of the Ethiopian Orthodox church’s canon law and involve abstaining from certain foods and activities as a way of spiritual devotion. Most of the fasting periods also involve abstaining from food and drink until 3pm, when the only meal of the day is consumed.
Special prayer programs are carried out during the fasting periods and members are also expected to abstain from sexual and other pleasure activities. All Orthodox Tewahedo christians in Ethiopia over the age of 13 are expected to observe some of the fasts. While some of the fasts have fixed dates the start and end dates of some fast is movable due to the The Ethiopian Leap Year and the church’s canon law.
Here are the major periods in the Ethiopian fasting calendar:
Hudadi – Abiy Tsome (The Fast of Great Lent)
Abiy Tsome or The Fast of Great Lent in Ethiopia is a period of strict fasting and prayer observed by Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo christians during the season of Great Lent, which occurs in the lead-up to Easter. It is marked by abstaining from certain foods, such as meat, dairy, and eggs, and by increasing one’s participation in church services and other spiritual practices. The Fast of Great Lent is seen as a time of spiritual cleansing and renewal, and is considered a crucial part of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian faith.
Abye Tsome or Hudade (Lent): a 55-day fast before Easter is the longest and most intensive one in the Ethiopian Orthodox fasting calendar. It also includes Tsome Himamat, a 7-day fast which starts on the Monday after Palm Sunday until Easter, a holy week that commemorates Jesus Christ’s travel into Jerusalem before his time of suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection.
Date: Yekatit 13 – Miyazya 8 (Movable Date)
Tsome Hawariat (The Fast of the Apostles)
Tsome Hawariat, also known as The Fast of the Apostles commemorates the time when the Apostles of Jesus received the gift of the Holy Spirit, and their immediate devotion for fasting and prayer to be fully prepared for their mission of spreading the message of Jesus Christ. They then set out from Jerusalem to share the teachings of Jesus Christ with the world.
Tsome Hawariat (The Fast of the Apostles) begins on the first Monday after Pentecost and lasts between 14 and 44 days and always ends on Hamele 5
Date: Ginbot/Sene – Hamle 5 / 08 June – 12 July (Movable Start Date)
Tsome Nenewe (The Fast of Nineveh)
Tsome Nenewe or The Fast of the Ninevites in Ethiopia is a fast observed by some members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. It is based on the biblical story of Jonah and the city of Nineveh, in which Jonah was sent by God to deliver a message of repentance to the people of Nineveh. When the people of Nineveh heard Jonah’s message, they repented and fasted in order to seek God’s forgiveness.
The Fast of the Ninevites in Ethiopia is observed as a way to honour this act of repentance and to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness. It is typically observed for three days, during which believers abstain from food, drink, and other pleasures. It is usually observed in the lead-up to the Ethiopian Christmas, which is celebrated on January 7th.
This fasting period begins on the Monday following the Feast of the Cross (Meskel) and lasts for three days.
Date: Tir 29 – Yekatit 1 (Movable Date)
Tsome Filseta (The Fast of the Holy Mary)
The Fast of the Holy Mary is observed by Ethiopian Orthodox Christians in honor of the Virgin Mary. It is held in the month of September and lasts for seven days. During this time, believers abstain from all food and drink from sunrise to sunset, and spend their days in prayer and devotion to the Virgin Mary.
The Fast of the Holy Mary is seen as a way to honor the mother of Jesus, and to seek her intercession and guidance in the face of difficult challenges and hardships.
This fasting period begins on the Monday following the Feast of the Assumption of Mary (Damera) and lasts for two weeks.
Date: Nehase 1 – Nehase 15 / 7 – 21 August (Fixed Date)
Tsome Nebiyat (The Fast of the Prophets)
Tsome Nebiyat or The Fast of the Prophets is a period of fasting and prayer that commemorates the lives and teachings of the prophets of the Old Testament of The Ethiopian Orthodox Bible. The Fast of the Prophets is considered a time of spiritual renewal and is an important part of Ethiopian Orthodox Christian faith.
This fasting period begins on the Monday following the Ethiopian Christmas (Genna) and lasts for 43 days.
Date: Hedar 16 – Tahsas 28 / 25 November to 06 January (Fixed Date)
Tsome Gehad (The Fast of the The Vigils)
Tsome Gehad is a period of fasting observed by Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. It is held in the weeks leading up to the Feast of the Annunciation, which commemorates the announcement of the birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary. The Fast of the Vigils is a time of spiritual reflection and preparation for the Feast of the Annunciation.
This fasting day takes place the eve of the Ethiopian Christmas (Gena) and the day before Epiphany (Timket).
Date: Tahsas 28 (Variable) and Tir 10 / 18 January (Fixed Date)
Tsome Dihinet (The Fast of Wednesdays and Fridays)
Tsome Dihinet or The Fast of Wednesdays and Fridays in Ethiopia is a practice observed by most Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia. They traditionally abstain from eating animal products and other rich foods on Wednesdays and Fridays as a way to practice self-discipline and devotion. This practice is based on the belief that Wednesday was the day that Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, and Friday was the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. Fasting on these days is a way for believers to show their devotion to Jesus and to remember his suffering.
This fasting is carried out during Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year, except for the 50 days after Easter (Fasika).
In addition to these major fasting periods, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has several minor fasting periods throughout the year. These may involve partial fasts or abstention from certain foods, such as meat or dairy and they are usually frequented by monks, priests and senior members of the church.
Some of the fasts may have different dates from one year to the next, depending on whether the year is a leap year or not. The above fasting dates above can be converted using the Ethiopian calendar converter.